Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Contact:  1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Author: Tom Jackman, Washington Post Staff Writer
Note: Staff writer Jamie Stockwell contributed to this report.


The Prince George's County police officer who fatally shot a Hyattsville 
man last month after trailing him into Fairfax County will not be charged 
with a crime, the Fairfax prosecutor announced yesterday, because the 
officer reportedly feared for his life and acted in self-defense.

The decision by Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. not to charge 
Cpl. Carlton B. Jones, 32, infuriated but did not surprise the family of 
the slain man, 25-year-old Prince C. Jones Jr., because Horan had defended 
the officer in previous statements. The shooting occurred in the early 
hours of Sept. 1 as Carlton Jones followed Prince Jones, no relation, into 
a neighborhood near Seven Corners. Prince Jones then rammed his Jeep 
Cherokee into the undercover officer's vehicle; in response, Carlton Jones 
fired 16 shots, hitting Prince Jones six times.

"The officer had a right to be where he was," Horan said yesterday at an 
afternoon news conference, though he acknowledged that Prince George's 
police were tailing the wrong man.

After listing the legal reasons for justifiable homicide, Horan added: 
"Every year for the past 34 years I've tried homicide cases in Virginia 
courtrooms. I believe that I know a little bit about what it takes to prove 
a case in court. . . . If you can't prove it in the courtroom, you 
shouldn't be charging it. In my opinion, there is not sufficient evidence 
to charge Corporal Carlton Jones with a crime, and I will not do so."

Ted J. Williams, an attorney for Prince Jones's family, attended Horan's 
news conference and said afterward: "I was horrified by what was said out 
there. This is a very sad day in Fairfax County, when the commonwealth's 
attorney legitimizes murder. An innocent man lost his life, and there was 
no reason for this man's death."

On the other side, the attorney for Carlton Jones, Michael T. Leibig, said: 
"Obviously, he feels good about it. He kind of anticipated it."

Horan (R), the longest-serving prosecutor in Virginia, has not charged a 
police officer in a shooting incident in his more than three decades in 
office. He had the option to present this case to a grand jury, but declined.

Although Horan's decision closes the file in Fairfax, Carlton Jones, a 
six-year member of the Prince George's force, could face prosecution at the 
federal level. The FBI is investigating the shooting, and the officer also 
could face a civil suit.

Carlton Jones is still on leave with pay. Yesterday, Prince George's Police 
Chief John S. Farrell said an internal investigation, halted during 
Fairfax's probe, will resume immediately. The county police department also 
is under scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department for its involvement in a 
dozen shootings during a 13-month span.

Horan provided new details about why Prince George's police were following 
Prince Jones the night he was shot, including two prior rammings of police 
vehicles by a black Jeep Cherokee. Horan said Carlton Jones's 911 call 
moments after the shooting convinced him that the officer's version of 
events was genuine.

"It is overwhelming evidence that he did what he [said he] did," Horan said 
of Carlton Jones's tape-recorded call. "He didn't have time to make that up."

Horan said the trail that led to the fatal confrontation began in June, 
when a Prince George's police officer's gun was stolen from his unmarked 
car. In the weeks that followed, Horan said, Prince George's police would 
twice encounter a suspect in the gun theft driving a black Jeep Cherokee 
with Maryland plates. Both times, the driver rammed police vehicles and 
escaped, he said.

The vehicle sustained rear-end damage, but Horan said Prince George's 
police learned that it had been repaired. So on Aug. 31, when officers 
spotted Prince Jones's black Cherokee with its Pennsylvania tag, they 
figured the suspect had switched plates, Horan said. And the prior rammings 
were in Carlton Jones's mind when he encountered Prince Jones a few hours 
later, Horan added.

That night, Prince Jones, a trainer at the Bally's health club in 
Hyattsville, left work about 10:40 p.m., spending a few hours with a friend 
before heading to his fiancee's house in Fairfax about 2 a.m.

Jones, who attended Howard University part time, had recently become 
engaged to Candace Jackson, the mother of his 11-month-old daughter.

While family and friends describe Prince Jones as a clean-living, spiritual 
man, little information has emerged about Carlton Jones, an undercover 
narcotics detective.

Leibig, the officer's attorney, previously said Jones and a supervisor were 
on surveillance in the District the night of the shooting, looking for the 
black Jeep Cherokee thought to be connected with the gun theft.

Leibig said Prince George's police saw Prince Jones's Jeep Cherokee in an 
area of Washington known for drug dealing, and noted that the vehicle had a 
Pennsylvania plate.

Horan said the officers intended simply to follow the Jeep and find out 
where its driver lived, perhaps to obtain a search warrant later. But the 
officers, driving separate unmarked vehicles, lost the Jeep, then saw it 
again in Hyattsville near a location known to be frequented by the suspects 
in the gun theft, Horan said.

Sometime after 2 a.m., Prince Jones called Jackson from a friend's house in 
Chillum and told her he was coming over, she said later. As Jones drove 
toward Fairfax, the officers followed, alternating who was in the lead, 
Leibig said. The actual target of the surveillance--not Prince Jones--had a 
reputation for violence, and the officers were apprehensive, Leibig said.

As the officers trailed the Jeep into the Seven Corners area, heading west 
on Route 50 in two Mitsubishi Montero sport-utility vehicles, Carlton Jones 
was ahead, Horan said, and became separated from his supervisor.

When Prince Jones neared his fiancee's house on Beechwood Lane, he made a 
quick left onto Spring Terrace, pulled into a driveway and turned off his 
lights, Cpl. Jones told Fairfax investigators. At this point, the officer 
and his supervisor had become separated and "it was essentially decided to 
call [the surveillance] off," Horan said.

Just then, Carlton Jones spotted the Jeep in the driveway. As Prince Jones 
started to back up, the officer said, he attempted to turn around and 
resume the pursuit, but that Prince Jones backed his Jeep up so that it 
blocked the officer's door. Prince Jones then got out and approached the 
officer, who was not in uniform, Horan said. Carlton Jones raised his gun, 
but not his badge, Horan said, identified himself as a police officer and 
twice told Jones to "get back in your vehicle."

Prince Jones, who was unarmed, said nothing but did return to his Jeep, the 
officer reported. The Jeep pulled forward, then suddenly shifted into 
reverse, ramming Carlton Jones's vehicle twice and spraying him with glass.

Neighbors, awakened by the noise, began emerging from their houses, Horan 
said. Though none saw Prince Jones outside his Jeep, Horan said they 
corroborated the officer's version of what happened next: that as Prince 
Jones attempted to ram the Montero a third time, the officer fired all 16 
shots from his 9mm Beretta pistol.

Six of the bullets hit Prince Jones in the back, Horan said. Prince Jones 
attempted to drive off, but crashed the Jeep about three blocks away. He 
was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died about five hours later.

As Prince Jones drove away, Carlton Jones called 911, identified himself, 
described what had happened and named a drug dealer he believed he was 
following, Horan said. Only later did he learn he had shot someone else.

"It is clear from the evidence that Corporal Jones and Prince Jones did not 
know one another," Horan said. "Prince Jones was not a man for whom they 
were looking. Prince Jones was not a suspect in the vehicular assaults on 
Prince George's police officers. As it turns out, the officers were 
incorrect in the assumptions they made about the black Cherokee."

But, Horan added, "it remains a mystery why Prince Jones rammed the police 
vehicle at least twice."

In response to a question from Williams, the family's attorney, Horan said 
the officer could not have evaded being rammed. "He was broadside in the 
street" and was fumbling with his seat belt and trying to climb out of the 
passenger side of the Montero, Horan said.

"I can really feel for the mother of Prince Jones," Horan said. "She has a 
right to be outraged. Her son is dead. But the officer had a right to be 
where he was."

Staff writer Jamie Stockwell contributed to this report.
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